Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Maja Ratkje: Acid / Insomnia

I figured, after the Robert Ashley piece, I'd post another experimental work created entirely by voice. This is from one of my favorite contemporary composers Maja Ratkje. She is a Norwegian woman that is one half of the noise duo Fe-Mail and the improv group SPUNK. These pieces are from her album Voice. Its an extremely beautiful and varied record from 2002 made up entirely of her voice. These are the last two tracks on the record. Acid is short and very trippy, indicative of the other songs on the album. Insomnia is an epic noisy masterpiece. I've seen her a live a few times and got to hang out with her when she was in San Francisco recording at Recombinant Media Labs. Totally cool lady and is as stunningly beautiful in person as she is in these pictures. These are among my favorite new music works. Play loud.



One of my favorite record covers ever, Voice. I wish this image showed the subtle coloring.

Sunday, April 26, 2009


What happens when someone has so much social anxiety that they cease to function? How alone can one man get? When the mundane crap we have to endure in order to be part of society gets to be too much, what happens? Frownland explores these questions. Its the first film by a guy named Ronald Bronstein, a film projectionist in New York. Definitely a startlingly original debut. The tone is strange and claustrophobic as we get inside the mind of a guy named Keith that is so messed up he can hardly form a proper sentence. We follow him around as he tries to make contact with people and function day to day. Most of us have known people like this- people that say "sorry" too much and have very awkward communication skills. So we know there are people out there like this but why would someone want to make a movie about them? Well, because its interesting and Bronstein and the lead actor, Dore Mann, do an excellent job. This may seem like something difficult to watch, and at times it is, but I found it oddly fascinating. I found myself contemplating the film days afterward. This film is about as un-commercial as a film can get. A few friends filmed it over the course of a few years as they saved money. It was shot on 16mm and the scratched film look is beautifully low budget. With no distributor, this may be a tough one to find, I think it's been screening randomly for the past year or so. Hopefully it'll be on DVD at some point. I saw it at the Silent Movie Theater here in LA. There were 10 people in the audience, among them Crispin Glover, if that tells you anything about how weird this movie is. Highly recommended.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Political Reading

I haven't had much time to blog lately since the corporate overlords at my job decided to treat their employees like children and take away our Internet access. So instead of fully summarizing these articles I'll just link to them. If you have any interest in politics, war, finance, etc.... check these out.

I came across this one, entitled The Big Takeover, in Rolling Stone. It is an engaging and well written explanation of the financial crisis and the bailout. The author is pissed off as fuck and maintains a refreshingly angry tone throughout the piece. Basically, with the aid of media propaganda, the bankers are taking over the government and stealing taxpayer dollars to make themselves rich.

The Other War was an article that appeared in The Nation in July 2007 and was one of the first comprehensive pieces that explored the Iraqi citizen death toll (100,000) and the morally ambiguous behavior of some US troops in Iraq. My thoughts: The US has a bunch of kids over there that grew up playing video games about killing and are spoon-fed government lies, so the fact that they are systematically terrorizing families, not to mention indiscriminately murdering woman and children, isn't surprising. War is hell. Its a long piece but worth the read.

And here are two new ones by Naomi Klein. A piece about Obama's treasure secretary and megalomanical moron Larry Summers. And A Lexicon of Disappointment is poking fun at the Obamamanics and is a call too arms to get over this "hope" phenomenon and start making sure "change" really happens. Well, it's not- the illusion is over and it's back to the same old shit.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Bob Presents: Elvis

We have a new guest blogger- Bob. He is taking the site to a whole new level with this contribution. Bob on the video:

"Oh yeah - the air lasso is heavy duty - I have been watching a lot of it lately when I'm feeling not so perky - fire up some air lasso and you are ready to face world".
(air lasso around minute four)

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

She Was A Visitor

A piece by Robert Ashley. A professor of mine, Maggi Payne, had been a student of his and turned me on to his mind melting creations. He was one of the early electronic music pioneers that came out of the scene centered around the San Francisco Tape Music Center in the early 70’s. Now he is probably best known for directing operas but back then he was known for a piece called Automatic Writing. She Was A Visitor was included on the same CD as that classic composition but for whatever reason Visitor has always resonated with me a bit more. It is a experimental work for voice from 1967 performed by the Brandeis University Chamber Chorus directed by Alvin Lucier.

Ashley's notes on the piece: "She Was a Visitor is a form of description, it is intended to be understood as a form of rumor. The chorus is divided into groups, each headed by a leader. A lone speaker repeats the title sentence throughout the entire performance. The separate phonemes of this sentence are picked up freely by the group leaders and are relayed to the group members, who sustain them softly and for the duration of one natural breath. The time lag between the group leaders' phoneme choices and those phonemes being picked up by members of the group produces a staggered, chant-like effect, with the sounds moving outward from the nearest performer to the farthest".

Play it loud.

Stream or download:

Robert Ashley - She Was A Visitor